When most people hear the phrase “police brutality,” the images that come to mind are typically from the United States. In 2015, nearly 1200 people were summarily executed by American law enforcement, according to a conservative estimate by PLoS Medicine; if anything, that trend has only accelerated. But Canada is hardly exempt from the phenomenon despite its polite facade and spit-shined public relations. After taking population into account, Canada still experiences half as many police perpetrated homicides, even if they aren’t as widely publicized or recognized. It’s a fact — among many others — I have seldom seen mentioned in the debates following this year’s protest against police participation at the Edmonton Pride march.
To briefly recap, a grassroots collection of local members of the LGBTQ+ community, most of whom were also people of colour, held up this year’s Pride march in protest for about 30 minutes. They issued demands specifically to the organizers of the Festival to reject the participation of the Edmonton Police Service, the RCMP, and the military as institutions. Individuals in these institutions were invited to participate next year — out of uniform — but there would be no official representation from any of the organizations themselves. The Edmonton Pride Festival Society’s board of directors accepted the demands, the protest disbanded, and the march resumed. The protesters were profoundly successful in starting a conversation, but many responding to the event have charged forward with their perspectives, evidently unaware of the context that informed this protest.